“Company of the Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike Road Stock, Certificate No. 787.”
Philadelphia: 1795. 7 ½ x 9 3/8 (full sheet). Printed on vellum (sheepskin) with manuscript. Very good condition. A/A
This is a fine example of the oldest U.S. stock certificate with an illustration on it, printed on sheepskin for durability. Individual shares were not redeemed, but transferred on the by the signature on the back, resulting in far fewer of these certificates having been made. Original holder was Benjamin Wistar Morris; it was then transferred to Henry Pratt in 1798, who once owned Lemon Hill Mansion.
The vignette shows a covered wagon approaching a tollgate: there was a barrier with pikes attached and when the toll was paid, the pikes were turned aside, hence the name “turnpike.”
The signer, as President of the company, was William Bingham (1752-1804), Banker, Legislator, Founder and Director of The Bank of North America, the first bank in the country. Bingham has the distinction of being America’s first millionaire. He served in the Continental Congress (1786-1789) and in the U.S. Senate (1795-1801), and was a friend of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and a director of Alexander Hamilton’s Bank of the United States. To many, including John Adams, it seemed that Bingham, with his immense wealth, ran the U.S. and not Washington and Jefferson. So great was Bingham’s wealth that although he died in 1804, his estate was not settled until 1964. This stock certificate has become increasingly rare, especially in such good condition.